It’s the most wonderful time of the year, playoff hockey time.  I am so excited I can’t take it.  Why must we wait until 8:30 Thursday night to see the Wild play the St. Louis Blues??? It’s killing me.

But since we have some time I might as well use it to lay out my thoughts on the Wild’s first round playoff series with the Blues.  Everyone knows the Blues are a good team with a lot of depth and a lot of size.  This is going to be a very physical series, but the Wild is a fast team and if they can use that quickness to get out of their zone and on the rush, they’ll be in perfect position.

But we have to make those good tape-to-tape passes in order to make that happen.  If we are able to do that and control the neutral zone, watch out, we should have the Blues on their heels.  I have no doubt the Wild’s leaders will be at their best come game time.  I’m talking about guys like Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter.

But in my opinion, the difference makers for the Wild will be some of those players you may not think about.  With that said here’s the four players I think will need to come up huge in the playoffs if the Wild is going to make the run I know they are capable of.

Chris Stewart:  This is why we brought Stewart in, for the playoffs.  He brings experience, grit and a toughness that the Wild will need if they’re going to beat the Blues.  He’s also sneaky fast, so watch for him to use that speed for a breakaway or two.

Charlie Coyle:  He’s the kind of forward that knows how to use his size to battle for the puck and to protect the puck once he gets it.  Look for him to play a very physical game and look for him to score some goals. That’s really what’s been lacking in his game lately – he’s got to hit the net.

Nino Niederreiter:  Here’s another guy that has some good size and like Chris Steward brings some toughness.  He’s great at getting position and using his size in front of the net.  If he can keep that up, there’s no doubt we’ll see some big goals from No. 22 in this series.

Mikael Granlund:  He’s not going to bring the size and toughness like Nino, Coyle and Stewart, but he will bring the speed and puck control.  Granlund is great with the puck, but what we need from him is to shoot more.  If he enters this series thinking that he’s a goal-scorer first and foremost, watch out because it will be on!! And that’s what the Wild need him to do, score goals.

I also want to give a shout out to my sleeper pick for this series, a guy that I don’t think many people even know or think about – Kyle Brodziak.  I’ll admit I’ve always been a big “Brodzy” fan.  I think he’s a solid player every time he’s on the ice.  He plays on that fourth line and I think that’s what makes him my sleeper pick.  Look for him to be a difference maker on the penalty kill and look for him to get to the net and score some goals. He’s another guy that has a lot of speed that he can use on breakaways.

Of course I can’t sign off without mentioning Devan Dubnyk. He’s been the rock that the Wild leaned on to get them into the playoffs and they’ll need him to continue to be that rock. This will be Dubs first playoff series so no doubt there will be some nerves, but if he can keep playing the way he has been I think we are in for a long run!! So fans now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride!! Go Wild!

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